Christmas Message 2017


Dear Friends,

We are on the cusp of entering a very special year for Restoration Ministries – our thirtieth anniversary!  Starting with our 2017 Advent Reflection Day, our Directors, along with Rose and myself, have been planning different ways in which we can mark this time.  It is a milestone!  Back in 1988 we had no idea that, so many years down the line, we would still be in existence.  This is, in itself, a miracle.  In practical terms we have never received any regular, ongoing funding from either Church or State.  It has been people like you, our friends, who caught the vision and through your generosity, God has us still here – for a purpose.  Without your prayers, your commitment, your willingness to embark with us on a road less travelled, our journey would have ended before it had really begun.  We have seen many changes over the years, not least the letting go of our base in Dunmurry in 2011 and downsizing to Harmony Drive in Lisburn.  On the wider front we came into being while the Northern Ireland conflict was still at its height and, through the various agreements and the still rather precarious peace process, have sought, in a little, often hidden way, to be a reconciling presence.  Pope Francis says, “Look to the past with gratitude, live the present with passion and embrace the future with hope.”  We do not wish this year of celebration to be a nostalgic looking back, but rather, with gratitude, to live the present moment, with all its challenges, to the full.  One of the contributors to Celtic Daily Prayer talks about ‘trust-filled waiting – that it’s not about learning to wait until what we want comes our way.  It is being so widened in the waiting that it changes our wanting.’  In Restoration Ministries we have certainly been widened in the waiting.  Has our wanting changed?  Not in the ultimate goal of restoration through friendship (which is our theme for this year), but perhaps how we journey towards that goal has shifted in focus and gone deeper into the realms of mystery.  Our yearning, our desire is for people to become aware of that inner journey of reconciliation where they come to recognise themselves as beloved.  It is out of that deep knowing that any lasting peace emerges.  That’s what Advent is all about.  In fact it is what the whole Christian revelation and experience is all about – restoration through friendship with God, with our own inner beings, with the other and with all things, permeated, embraced by, throbbing with infinite love.  We are created for relationship.  I heard someone say the other day, “You are not a body that has a soul.  You are a soul that has a body.”  We have come from God and we are returning to God.  The choices that we make, the encounters that we have, the risks we take in faith all contribute to a maturing, a deepening, an expansion of the soul.  As we commit to such a process we hasten the coming of a new day, one that is marked by inclusion, unity and peace.

We do not know how long Restoration Ministries will continue.  That is not our concern or even our responsibility, but God’s.  What we do know is that in this precious ‘now’ we choose to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope.  Will you do that with us in this year of celebration, wherever you are in the world?  Will you join us in some of our events either in spirit from a distance or with your actual presence?  And may we all so live this Advent season that we become widened in our waiting, thus changing and honing our wanting.

A blessed and joyous Christmas to you all!